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Why High Leverage is Optimal for Banks

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  • Harry DeAngelo
  • René M. Stulz
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    Abstract

    Liquidity production is a central role of banks. We show that, under idealized conditions, high leverage is optimal for banks when there is a market premium for (socially valuable) liquid financial claims and no deviations from Modigliani and Miller (1958) due to agency problems, deposit insurance, taxes, or any other distortions. Our model can explain (i) why bank leverage increased over the last 150 years or so, (ii) why high bank leverage per se does not necessarily cause systemic risk, and (iii) why limits on the leverage of regulated banks impede their ability to compete with unregulated shadow banks. Our model indicates that MM’s debt-equity neutrality principle is inapplicable to banks. Because debt-equity neutrality assigns zero weight to the social value of liquidity, it is an inappropriately equity-biased baseline for assessing whether the high leverage ratios of real-world banks are excessive.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19139.

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    Date of creation: Jun 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19139

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    References

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    1. Miller, Merton H., 1995. "Do the M & M propositions apply to banks?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 19(3-4), pages 483-489, June.
    2. Douglas W. Diamond & Raghuram G. Rajan, 2001. "Liquidity Risk, Liquidity Creation, and Financial Fragility: A Theory of Banking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(2), pages 287-327, April.
    3. Jeremy C. Stein, 2012. "Monetary Policy as Financial Stability Regulation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 57-95.
    4. Franklin Allen & Elena Carletti, 2013. "Deposits and Bank Capital Structure," Working Papers 477, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    5. Gorton, Gary B., 2010. "Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199734153, Octomber.
    6. Merton H. Miller & Franco Modigliani, 1961. "Dividend Policy, Growth, and the Valuation of Shares," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34, pages 411.
    7. Arvind Krishnamurthy & Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2012. "The Aggregate Demand for Treasury Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 120(2), pages 233 - 267.
    8. Miller, Merton H, 1977. "Debt and Taxes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 261-75, May.
    9. Douglas W. Diamond & Philip H. Dybvig, 2000. "Bank runs, deposit insurance, and liquidity," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 14-23.
    10. Gennaioli, Nicola & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W., 2013. "A Model of Shadow Banking," Scholarly Articles 11688792, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    11. Nicola Gennaioli, 2012. "A Model of Shadow Banking," 2012 Meeting Papers 89, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    12. Gorton, Gary & Pennacchi, George, 1990. " Financial Intermediaries and Liquidity Creation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(1), pages 49-71, March.
    13. Bengt Holmstrom & Jean Tirole, 1998. "Private and Public Supply of Liquidity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(1), pages 1-40, February.
    14. Samuel G. Hanson & Anil K. Kashyap & Jeremy C. Stein, 2011. "A Macroprudential Approach to Financial Regulation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 3-28, Winter.
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    Cited by:
    1. Hanson, Samuel & Shleifer, Andrei & Stein, Jeremy C. & Vishny, Robert W., 2014. "Banks as Patient Fixed Income Investors," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2014-15, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).

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